- Aug 17, 2017 at 4:48 am #3485540
Granted that most people who just got back don’t want to think about Philmont for a while…..If you get a chance, let us know the ups and downs of your trip. Any helpful things to watch for or things that might help us out.
I’m going to be offering “coaching” to local Troops in my area and any further info is welcome. 2018 will be my fourth trek but I know I don’t have all the tips and secrets down. Never been to the South country, so any info for down that way would be great.
Tell us about the places you stayed on the trip out….your experiences with the Philmont gear or what you took instead…..camps you visited and the experience…..ways you made the hiking better for you (mainly for the adults, the boys rarely have the pain issues we have)Aug 18, 2017 at 8:42 am #3485820
John OBPL Member
I would definitely appreciate some recent relevant feedback.
I’m the Lead Advisor for my troop heading out there next year (2018) in August. Good/bad/ugly, our troop doesn’t have any recent resident experience. The last crew out of our troop was (5) five years ago.Aug 18, 2017 at 8:47 am #3485823
I’m the Lead Advisor for my troop heading out there next year (2018) in August. Good/bad/ugly, our troop doesn’t have any recent resident experience. The last crew out of our troop was (5) five years ago.
Same here – planning for a July 15 to 27 with (2) crews. I plan to attend the Philmont 1-day info meeting in our SoCal. I doubt any of the adults can attend the 3-day training.Aug 18, 2017 at 9:41 am #3485831
Some third-hand feedback from a friend of mine that went with his son – both Philmont first timers. My friend is not on BPL, so I’ll relay what he told me. Experts can clarify…
- From SoCal they found airfare was about the same cost as the train, but they had to pay extra for everyone’s checked luggage (i.e. packs). Some of the other advisors and parents are really focused on how we are getting there next summer.
- Philmont patrol-style cooking was not an issue – I know it gets a lot of attention here with those big pots. The food was good – or he was really-really hungry, once he adjusted to the altitude.
- He did say the first few days he suffered from altitude and did not have the appetite for the high-carb menus. That passed by day 3. He says he’s going to get Diamox if he goes again.
- You walk a lot more than the published miles, to divert to water and he thought the mileage was as-the-crow-flies – not trail mileage.
- Arrive the day before your arrival date – that was discussed here recently.
- Buy the shirts (they got 2 each – long sleeve). I had not heard this before, but you pre-order them customized for your crew.
- The Philmont tents were great for the scouts. He brought his own smaller tent because he was odd-man out on the crew.
Thanks -BobAug 18, 2017 at 10:20 am #3485839
John OBPL Member
Good stuff and thanks for relaying.
We’re coming from Northern Virginia so it’ll be a bit of planes, trains and automobiles before we take the first steps toward the trailhead.
I don’t anticipate challenges with crew-style cooking with exception with one Scout that has Gluten and Nut allergies. I think he will be a one man show in that regard based on our experience from troop and resident scout camping.
We’re entertaining the idea to fly into Denver/Colorado Springs a few days prior to time adjust and hike there locally at altitude before either driving or grabbing a bus to PSR. Likewise, it sounds like arriving at PSR the day prior has merit.
Being so close to the AT, our plan is to get the entire Crew to section hike as long and often as we can prior to our departure without incurring injuries and/or burnout while also truly “storming” and “forming” the team.
That’s great scoop on the PSR tents as all our Scouts are relying on that but I’m curious to know if it’s a viable option for full-sized Scouters? I have curiosity of the level of scrutiny of the gear list as opposed to the flexibility of what we bring.
I’ve read here and/or other materials that mention each crew member hauling 4L of water, which seems a bit excessive. Likewise, I understand the less than friendly nature of the environment at altitude, but long underwear, wool/fleece sweater mid-layer with a wool/polarfleece top layer in August? I’m thinking along the lines of good raingear to keep dry during the daily afternoon monsoon, with emphasis on staying dry is the key to staying warm.Aug 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm #3485854
My friend’s son is over 6′ – I’ll ask him about tent size for older scouts and adults.
In SoCal, hiking with 4L/Q can be a way of life. We’re doing a beginner backpack this weekend and some of the new scouts are around 75 lbs. I’m not going to have them carry 8 lbs of water, but I have told them all to bring capacity for a gallon. Some of the younger dads can carry a little more, and it’s a short walk into our primitive campsite.
That’s not a Philmont scenario for age/weight/fitness expectations, but I think the same direction applies. You should have capacity for a gallon or more per person. I’ve seen some prior threads on this, I think here on BPL. I typically carry (2) SmartWater 1L bottles, but have a 2.5Q Platypus I’ve had for years. All are stored in my outside pockets. I’ve heard others suggest the MSR Dromedary bags. I got one of those when they first came out, but can never seem to convince myself it’s worth the weight. The durability might fit Philmont, and >14 scouts can carry a little more since they don’t baby their gear like I do. I heard these are made with lighter materials now as well.
You should know every day when you break camp as to where you are getting your water from. My friend told me that was the reason for some of the extra miles vs the published trek length. He also said they would eat their hot pot meal at lunch if they were going into a dry camp to minimize the water they had to carry. I’ve read that before too. With typical BPL suggestions like drink up at your water source you should be able to limit the weight except when you absolutely need it. That said, my friend said they submitted a peak and found they had very little water left over. They did survive, but clearly you want to avoid that situation in case something else occurs.
I hear those afternoon storms are like clockwork in late-July and August. One of the hammock companies makes something for tarps that capture the water into bottles at the corners. Maybe that would be a good way to top off your water supply when you stop in the afternoon – hopefully at camp.
-BobAug 18, 2017 at 1:13 pm #3485860
Ed EBPL Member
We just finished a 7 day trek (number 8) that started on July 30th. Here are some highlights:
- We flew Southwest from LAX to DEN. It was about $250.00 per person round trip and you can check 2 bags at no cost We arrived on Saturday July 29th, took the Gray Line Philmont Shuttle to Philmont and spent Saturday night in tent city. Philmont charged $10 per crew member for early arrival plus $6 for breakfast Sunday morning. The Philmont shuttle is door to door and $136 (?) each way.
- The Scouts used Philmont’s Thunder Ridge tents. There was a lot of rain in the forecast and we didn’t want to put wear and tear on our troop tents or travel with wet tents on the way home. I brought a Big Sky Mirage 2P tent and slept by myself. The Philmont tents are solid and weatherproof, no complaints.
- We brought two of our own 4 quart pots for boiling water, and two canister stoves, a DPower and a Kovea Spider, both of which worked great. Using two stoves and two 4 quart pots saved time at meal prep I think. 4 quart pots were on the list of items you could check out at outfitting but not sure if they are readily available as we brought our own. We used the Philmont cooking and cleaning method and had no complaints about it.
- A couple Scouts had food allergies and needed to bring food substitutions. No issues turning the food in to logistics and picking it up later on the trail. Only issue is the Scouts brought dehydrated meals with 2 or 3 servings, which they would then proceed to rehydrate and not eat the entire package because it was too much food. If you have scouts who are substituting food items, sort this out ahead of time.
- We did not expect there to be so many water crossings. Some had logs with which to cross but most did not. I wore trail runners (La Sportiva Wildcats) and just let them and my hiking socks (Darn Tough 1/4 Hikers) get wet. Changing in and out of different pairs of shoes (which some of our Scouts did) takes a lot of time. However you decide to deal with water crossings, this is something else to get sorted out before you get there!
- We all much preferred staffed camps over trail camps. It was hard to find suitable spots to pitch tents that would avoid pooling water in case of rain, etc. It was as if Philmont put the fire ring, sump, etc., in what would have been prime spots for tents, leaving lower ground for tents. You could see where water had previously pooled or run right through the tent spots. Luckily we had only a couple nights of serious rain, and there were no major issues.
- My pack weight including crew gear, food, and water maxed out at about 33 pounds. I used one of the discontinued SMD Fusion 65 packs that was on sale a year or so ago and really liked it. I could have brought less stuff, including my phone and charger which I never used. It was nice not checking my email etc. for a week! You are never that far from a staffed camp in case of emergency so my recommendation would be to leave the phone in the lockers and just enjoy the trek. No one on our crew had an obscenely heavy pack, but no one went ultralight either. The Scouts were a group of very fit 17 year olds most of whom play team sports in high school and they weren’t too concerned about pack weight.
- There was ample water on our trek either in creeks/streams or at the spigots at staffed camp. I brought 4 one liter smart water bottles to carry water and this worked fine for me. We had a couple extra Platypus reservoirs but never needed them.
Hope this helps!Aug 18, 2017 at 4:33 pm #3485884
Ed EBPL Member
A few more things:
- Most of us wore Frogg Toggs for rain gear. I had a Frogg Toggs jacket and a ULA rain kilt which also came in handy when washing my underwear and shorts at a staff camp.
- The “it rains like clockwork in the afternoon then everything dries out right away” was b.s. on two of the days of our trek when it rained all afternoon and night. We underestimated how wet it would actually be.
- The clothes that I brought: linerless running shorts, linen long sleeve button down short, polyester button down shirt, polyester long pants, poly boxer briefs (2) , Merino wool socks (2), 100 weight fleece pullover, fleece cap, polyester liner gloves, baseball cap, trail runners, and for sleep wear polyester baselayer top and bottom and polyester liner socks. I wore only one pair of socks which were constantly wet due to water crossings.
- Our crew was our ranger’s first crew. He was a Naval Academy midshipman and Eagle Scout who had not been to Philmont as a Scout. The gear shakedown was not strict (but we would have been in compliance anyway). Great guy and the Scouts loved him.
- The food at base camp was not good. The trail food was not good either. Some of the trail food was inedible, the fettucine primavera (backpackers pantry?) was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. There was some ham that everyone hated as well haha.
Overall we had a great time and were all impressed at how efficiently Philmont is run.Aug 18, 2017 at 5:57 pm #3485897
“I’ve read here and/or other materials that mention each crew member hauling 4L of water, which seems a bit excessive. Likewise, I understand the less than friendly nature of the environment at altitude, but long underwear, wool/fleece sweater mid-layer with a wool/polarfleece top layer in August?.”
What we’ve done in the past is everyone carried a one gallon water bag. Ours came from Taco Casa and Sonic, they sold tea in them. They worked like a champ, I will do this again in ’18.
Philmont’s clothing list is a bit heavy. All I’ve ever taken is a light jacket. In the windy times I used my rain jacket. Long sleeve shirt for sleeping and I did take long john bottoms for sleeping. I use a quilt so it can get drafty.Aug 18, 2017 at 6:07 pm #3485900
“I hear those afternoon storms are like clockwork in late-July and August. One of the hammock companies makes something for tarps that capture the water into bottles at the corners. Maybe that would be a good way to top off your water supply when you stop in the afternoon – hopefully at camp.”
Never thought of that!!!Aug 20, 2017 at 11:30 pm #3486244
My troop (2 crews) based in NorCal went to Philmont in 2017 (Crew 728) for the 12 days program (itinerary #7). My thoughts:
- We flied to DEN from SJC via Southwest (luggage is free), then we got charter bus company to Cimarron, NM. We heard from another crew in Arizona, they took train, and regretted. The train schedule is not accurate, and has huge delay. We didn’t fly to Albuquerque, as the flight going there from NorCal will transfer from DEN.
- Study your itinerary, and plan ahead. Find how many camps will be dry camp (we had two dry camps), and food supply frequency (our itinerary only had two supplies, and we carried 5 days supply). Only once at a dry camp, we used filtered water (used a Platypus Gravity filter) with purification pills. We never tried to use rainwater (hammock was forbidden by Philmont).
- Weather condition, don’t trust forecast much, and always be prepared for rain. We experienced heavy rain, hailstorm, thunderstorm at various campsites, and during the hike. Our sister crew got stuck in lightening position at a campsite for 1 hour. The crew taking the same itinerary departed one day later got stuck in their first day hike for 1.5 hour! Californian scouts are spoiled with dry weather, so consider organize a dry during a rainy weekend :)
- Philmont food, it is well organized to provide good calories. You can find menu: http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/TrekPreparation/Shakedown/TrailFoodMenu.aspx, and even prepare or order some for your dry runs. You won’t feel hungry, but you won’t feel full (other than dinner) either. There is food swap box at staffed campsites. You can swap food (many of the drink mixes are not popular). Philmont package two persons food into one bag. Our crew has odd number, so we got one extra serving. Your scouts may likely enjoy this extra serving!
- Pots, you can use Philmont pot, or buy a lighter one (8 Qtr) and pass it down your future crews!
- Dining fly, the Philmont dining fly is very good. We brought our own lighter version, but it is not that roomy/sturdy.
- Bear bag/rope, just use Philmont’s supply. Don’t forget to acquire heavy duty carabiner clip (you can buy the right one at the Tooth of Time trading post).
- Tent, we didn’t use Philmont’s tent. They look very sturdy and rain proof. Did I mention you always prepare for the rain? So seal your tents, and see if you can dry pitch your tent (set up footprint, rainfly first, then inner tent). Some tents are marketed with dry pitch feature (e..g http://www.mountainhardwear.com/skyledge-2-dp-OU9623.html). I used REI QuarterDome, and was able to find a way to achieve dry pitch.
- Campsite, DO take a picture of the campsite map when you enter the campsite. You may need hike 1 mile or 2 miles to the site you would pick in a campsite. The Philmont way is to leave the first site to the later crew. And you should consider pick a spot closer to a bear bag tree, and a redroof (you will learn this from your ranger). And we also picked up a site closer to the next day’s route (that’s why once we hiked almost 2 miles to the site).
- Clothes, sleeping bag. Absolute avoid cotton, make sure your “dry-fit” clothes doesn’t contain cotton either. Package lightest clothes, and do bring a down jacket (it can get cold at some campsites). For sleeping bag, consider to buy those water resistant one. Your tent will get wet under heavy rain (and Philmont disallow to create trench around your tent).
- Raingears, rainjacket (eVent material over Goretex) over poncho (too hot). I wore rain kilt and rain gaiter, it worked well. Rain pant can be used as extra layer for cold night though.
- Watch out for mini-bears (they are more of real problem than real bears). They will bite your bladder bite valve! That’s why in many food supply station trading posts, they also stock replacements, :) If your bladder’s valve doesn’t have a cap, then put them inside your backpack.
- Enjoy the hikes, hiking is the best program Philmont offers, :) The view is awesome, and detaching from busy life is priceless.
At basecamp, there is adult lounge (you can charge phone, and fellowship with other adult leaders). There is free wifi at Tooth of Time trading post/library area. ATT has the best signal coverage in Philmont, no surprise, :)
Lastly, for most Californians we need time to adjust to the high altitude. It took me two days, and no issue during the trek. We do have one scout got headache at the day before/after Mt. Phillips. It was not an issue once we descended quite a bit though. It can kick in even in the later days of your trek (tied with the elevation).Aug 21, 2017 at 12:22 pm #3486296
My thoughts on Philmont.
(I have another thread with my Clothing Layers and thoughts)
+1 on arriving a day early. It was nice to not be rushed on day 1 check-in. We met our ranger at 8:15 and were done right after lunch. Lots of down time.
+1 on ““it rains like clockwork in the afternoon then everything dries out right away” was b.s. on two of the days of our trek when it rained all afternoon and night.” It was day 4 or 5 before we were able to dry out our socks. We had rain in the mornings, at night, overnight, etc. The only morning we packed up dry tents was (fortunately) the day we hiked out…
We all used our own tents but the Philmont tents looked solid. I took a SMD Lunar Duo and loved it.
Trail runners – I used the Altra Loan Peak 3.0’s and would use again. No issues on Philmont proper or in Valle Vidal. Handles rocks fine. Consider bread bags or use the Philmont food bags in camp if shoes are wet and you want to keep your spare/camp/sleeping socks dry. Between the rain and water crossings, just learn to manage wet feet vs. try to keep them dry. Those wearing GTX boots had more blisters than those that wore trail runners or non-GTX lightweight boots (i.e. Merrell Moab Ventilators).
Philmont logistics are great. No issues with allergy-related substitute meals.
Carried the ULA Catalyst. Worked great. I did keep my tent in a daypack (REI Flash 18) that was easily strapped to the top of the pack when I had a full food load. Other times I was able to get everything in the pack. My baseweight was around 23 lbs with 2-3 lbs of crew gear and a 2 lb Helinox camp chair, which I will take next time as well.
Use the Micro Pur provided by Philmont. Filters not needed. Even the adult advisor that brought a water filter stopped using it. Trying to filter 10-12 gallons a day is very slow compared with the tablets.
I carried a 3L hydration bladder, a 2L platy for extra capacity (mostly used to bring extra water to camp), and a vitamin water bottle for my mix bottle. I did also carry a Nalgene (gasp) but was glad I had it. Much easier to get water out of a stream with a Nalgene vs. a soft sided platy. We were on a longer trek so most days we started with 4L of water. When we knew we were going through staffed camps, we backed off a bit. If you have dry camps (we did not), you’ll want extra water capacity…perhaps a 2L platy per tent vs. the 2 gallon bags recommended by Philmont.
As with Ed, our ranger was a Naval Academy guy. Shakedown was really quick but we were experienced. Other regular rangers that we saw from a distance spent 2-3 times as long scrutinizing gear.
We brought most of our own crew gear. We did take one 8L pot and serving spoon and the bear bags/rope. We brought our own dining fly and used trees and/or trekking poles for pitching. Next time I’ll likely buy an 8L pot so we only use their bear bags/rope.
We cooked the Philmont way while the ranger was there. After he left we rehydrated in the bag when possible. I think two more meals we had to use the one pot method as the bags the food came in were too small.
Trail food was only ok, with a few exceptions. Breakfasts and lunches were pretty much just lots of snacks. Base camp food was not good at all. When you come off the trail, go into Cimarron and eat burgers or pizza. We hit up Creamies and got double bacon cheeseburgers, chili files, shakes, etc.
First aid – about the only items I used out of my 2 lb kit was Leukotape and a roll of 1” K tape. We went through most of the roll of K tape, taping toe blisters / hot spots. I sticks really well and is flexible…great for toes. It was a last minute purchase and worth its weight in gold. Much easier to use than Leukotape since it has a peel off backing…just cut off the right length and give it to the boys. I taped some known trouble areas on my toes and it lasted most of the trek. Used Leukotape on larger hot spots, bottoms of feet, back of heels, etc.Aug 21, 2017 at 2:27 pm #3486313
Regards blister issue, our crews (total 18 people), only 2 scouts developed serious hot spot issue (not blister though). I had great success with applying Trail Toes cream. One jar shared with all crew members, :)Aug 21, 2017 at 5:05 pm #3486348
First…I’ll retract my statement about rain coming like “clockwork”. It was second hand info and probably more along the lines of “It will rain!” Coming from SoCal we don’t get a lot of practice setting up or tearing down camp in the rain. I can picture a shakedown hike that simulates the wet event for practice, or maybe we’ll have another wet year and gain some experience this winter.
Regarding First aid – about the only items I used out of my 2 lb kit was Leukotape and a roll of 1” K tape. We went through most of the roll of K tape, taping toe blisters / hot spots. I sticks really well and is flexible…great for toes. It was a last minute purchase and worth its weight in gold. Much easier to use than Leukotape since it has a peel off backing…just cut off the right length and give it to the boys. I taped some known trouble areas on my toes and it lasted most of the trek. Used Leukotape on larger hot spots, bottoms of feet, back of heels, etc.
What is K tape? I switched from duct tape to Leukotape on a backpack this summer, and it prevented some blisters, but when applied to an existing blister, I pulled the blister apart trying to remove the tape that night. A simple band-aid replaced every so often seemed to work better from there out.Aug 24, 2017 at 11:38 am #3486843
Jeffrey PetersBPL Member
Aug 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm #3486898
- I would avoid any trek that goes over Mount Phillips from the Clear Creek side. The trail is straight up on loose cobble. We came down Phillips this way and saw many crews struggling up this section.
- We brought two tarps with us and set them up each night. This gave us a dry place to cook and also a place to eat under when it rained. Teach your scouts the truckers hitch with a slippery knot to pitch the tarps. The trucker hitch is faster to set and breakdown than two half hitches and the taut line hitch.
- Take advantage of the early arrival option. This allowed us to get assigned our ranger early on the morning of day one. As a result our day was slower than others arriving later in the day. We even had time to tour the Villa.
- On our day 11 when coming off the Tooth of Time on the trail of tears we called the Saint James and made reservations for dinner that night. I think we all ordered the bison burger. We found that our ranger was in basecamp and brought her with us. The food at base camp is not that appetizing even after being on the trail.
- We had custom crew shirts made that were really original and brought an extra one as a gift for our ranger. She gave us the pound cake and we gave her the shirt.
- Saw a lot of crews still using hard plastic water bottles. Our crew used Smartwater or Gator Aid bottles. We only had one Smartwater bottle spring a leak later in the trek.
- If you have a scout that gets nose bleeds easily in dry weather make sure you have some vaseline and q tips in your med kit. We each day applied some vaseline to the inside of the nose with the q tip.
- I second the suggestion to take a photo of the trail camp maps. That stuff is not on your section map and comes in handy.
- We brought two sawyer squeeze filters. It rained nearly ever day. All the streams were stained.It was nice to be able to filter out the silt before treating it. I know I probably didn’t need to treat the water after it went through the filter but our lead advisor was a safety and rule Sally.
- Remember we advisors are supposed to be on vacation. I saw crews that were boy led. Saw some crews that were advisor led.
- Check everyone’s footwear to make sure it serviceable before the trip. Saw a scout that had his boots fail on day three. They were all wrapped up in duct tape holding them together.
How did you manage transportation to St. James? We heard about this group dinner idea from other adults at basecamp. But we gave it up as we didn’t have cars.Aug 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm #3486970
Jeffrey PetersBPL Member
S. Song we had vans at basecamp. I may be mistaken but I do remember seeing a sign about a shuttle in to Cimarron.Aug 25, 2017 at 9:18 am #3487000
@bob – k tape, or Kinesio tape. Just search amazon for “1 inch kinesio tape” and you’ll see it. Used primarily in 2″ widths by athletes for taping backs, shoulders, etc. The 1″ wide stuff worked awesome for taping toes since it is flexible, which is what was needed for most of my crew. Also, it will not pull the skin off a drained blister like Leukotape will.
Regarding the Leukotape pulling the skin off, I keep a few nonstick pads in my kit. When we have to drain a blister, I will typically cut a small piece of the nonstick pad the size of the blister to cover the blister, then use the Leukotape (basically make a bandaid). No issues.Aug 25, 2017 at 9:24 am #3487001
+1 on the shuttles available to take crews to Cimarron. Thought I saw somewhere that it was $5/head. We had vans as well though so it wasn’t an issue.
+++++1 on going into Cimarron to get burgers or pizza when coming off the trail. A great time of fellowship and moral boosting… Dining hall food is pretty poor.Dec 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm #3508498
Jeff CBPL Member
Anyone have good advice for best overnight accommodations (not tent camping) near Philmont and Colorado Springs. Flying into Denver July 2018 and have 3 nights prior to Philmont arrival. Particularly interested to hear if anyone has experience with Peterson Air Force base or NRA facility.Dec 21, 2017 at 12:47 am #3508557
David YBPL Member
We’ve stayed in Colorado Springs and visited the Air Force Academy. It has a mini museum and its famous and beautiful Chapel. There is also Pikes Peak and Cog Rail Road ride to the top, Garden of the Gods, area river raft trips, etc. Google other attractions, motels and such for overnight accommodations.
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